An anticipated boost to the number of dramas made in the UK after tax breaks are introduced next year could expose “skills gaps and shortages” within the production sector.
The worry comes from Kate O’Connor, deputy chief executive of Creative Skillset, who spoke of the need for a strategy to ensure the UK has a workforce with the skills required to cope with the expected increase in the number of dramas made in England, Scotland and Wales.
The new tax relief will apply to high-end scripted television productions costing more than £1 million an hour, with chancellor George Osborne claiming it would help the “UK to remain a world leader in the creative industries”. It is hoped the incentive will persuade UK producers to stop shooting abroad and encourage international companies to make their content within Britain.
However, speaking at a Westminster Media Forum event, O’Connor said: “We can’t take it as read that we will have the right skills and talent unless there is intervention and unless there is strategy.”
She added that the “range of skills” needed within the TV production sector is “enormous and constantly changing”, warning that the UK “can’t afford to let market forces dictate and hope the right people come through with the right skills and talent to support the ambition”.
O’Connor claimed that a third of people who work in films also work in TV, saying that a “growth in TV and film [production] will lead to skills gaps and shortages”.
“The growth and ambition is what we want to achieve, as with growth comes opportunity,” she said. “There is going to be lots more opportunity for training on production and there are going to be more jobs. But it will also shine a light on where we have got skills gaps and shortages, and we absolutely need to step up our skills development in some of those areas relating to high-end TV production.”
O’Connor added that Creative Skillset had learned a “big lesson” working with Northern Ireland Screen when Game of Thrones was filmed in the region, claiming it did not have “skills it needed initially” for the production.
She said the sector skills council had worked with NIS to tackle the shortage, and added: “We have to multiply that out now and do it in advance of productions that will be attracted to the UK. A sustainable, collected, coordinated, strategic approach to skills is essential.”
She added that the TV industry was “addressing these matters with the degree of urgency it takes”.
In its response to a government consultation on the tax break, Creative Skillset said “there will need to be agreement on the mechanisms necessary for delivering the industry investment, in order to demonstrate to government how the benefits from the tax reliefs can be utilised to invest in UK skills and talent investment”.
The response adds that strategies could be funded by a levy based on a similar, voluntary levy on films produced within the UK. It says this could be collected by Creative Skillset and directed to “areas of need”.